Here are a few winners and losers (note: this is not meant to be comprehensive, as that would be endless, boring, and exhausting! LOL) from this election cycle that I believe are worth highlighting. I’m not going to dwell much on the obvious winners (McAuliffe, Northam, Herring) and losers (Cuccinelli, Jackson, Obenshain), but instead on ones that jump out at me. And again, this list isn’t even close to comprehensive, so please add winners and losers of your own in the comments section. Thanks.
1. Robby Mook and the rest of the McAuliffe campaign staff: It may not have been pretty in the end, but the bottom line is that – as Steve Jarding told me back in 2006, most certainly with a big dollop of sarcasm – “when you win you’re a genius, when you lose you’re an idiot.” By that reasoning, these guys are now geniuses. To be serious, though, I’d say they ran a strong campaign, strategically smart, tactically agile, and of course extremely well funded. One caveat: I tend to agree with my friend Paul Goldman that it was risky to nationalize the campaign by bringing in Clinton and Obama in the closing week, just as the “Obamacare” rollout fiasco was exploding (on the other hand, Clinton and Obama were both excellent in making the case for Terry and against Cooch). Anyway, I think Terry’s lead tightened (at least from the public polling; maybe not from the “internals”) because there’s real anger out there in the right-wing base against “Obamacare,” and because the government shutdown was starting to fade into the rear-view mirror (with federal employees back to work and compensated for the time they were off) by Election Day.
2. Bill Bolling: I’ve already seen the chatter, that if Bolling had been the Virginia GOP nominee this year, Republicans would have won. And it’s quite possible that’s the case. Regardless, Bolling got his revenge on Cuccinelli for knifing him (politically/metaphorically, of course) by staging a coup and depriving him of the chance to run for Governor he assumed was his. Bolling also will almost certainly end up with a plum position in the McAuliffe administration if he wants one. Not too shabby a result, in the end, for Bolling.
3. Corey Stewart and Pete Snyder: With Republicans losing the Governor and LG races, and possibly the AG race as well (stay tuned on that one), these two guys – who finished right behind E.W. Jackson at the Republican convention last May – are almost certain to run again in 2017. If Obenshain pulls out the AG race, I could see an Obenshain for Governor race in 2017 with Stewart and Snyder fighting it out for LG (and Rob Bell for AG?).
4. Michael Mann: Speaking of revenge, the former UVA climate scientist who Cuccinelli launched a “witch hunt” (to use the Washington Post’s words) against, has got to be feeling prettttty good right about now.
5. LGBT Virginians: They got Governor McAuliffe, who is strongly pro-equality/anti-discrimination, and dodged having a raging homophobe in the Governor’s mansion, not to mention an even worse homophobe (if that’s possible) as LG. Now, if only Mark Obenshain – who WALKED OUT of the Senate rather than vote on an openly gay judge – loses, LGBT Virginians can really celebrate.
6. Virginia Women: They got a Governor and Lt. Governor who both strongly believe, as Ralph Northam puts it, that a bunch of legislators in Richmond, most of whom are men, should not be telling Virginia women what they can and can’t do with their bodies!
7. Virginia’s economy: We just dodged a major bullet, as Ken Cuccinelli’s economic and tax policies would have trashed our AAA bond rating, tarnished our state’s image, harmed our educational and transportation infrastructure, and generally made our state MUCH less attractive to business. Phew!
8. Virginia public education: As noted in #7, dodged a huge bullet, as Cuccinelli was a big proponent of taking money intended for public schools and putting it into private and religious schools. Cuccinelli also would have been forced to slash the education budget to pay for his enormous tax cuts to the wealthy and well-connected.
9. Renewable energy and the environment: Terry McAuliffe is a big fan of renewable energy. To put it mildly, Ken Cuccinelli – a fossil fuel shill and climate science denier – is NOT. Again, phew!
10. Latinos: They came very close to having a strongly anti-“illegal”-immigrant governor. Instead, they got a mainstream guy who wants to make Virginia a welcoming place for everyone. Huge difference
11. Voting rights: The Republican assault on people’s right to vote suffered a major setback in Virginia yesterday. If Ken Cuccinelli had been elected governor, it would have been all-out war on voting rights in Virginia, a la North Carolina and Texas. Now, hopefully we can see an EXPANSION of voting rights, including to former felons.
12. Virginia’s transportation infrastructure: Cuccinelli was a major opponent of transportation improvements in Virginia, from the Metro to Dulles/Silver Line project to funding it at all. And Cuccinelli’s transportation “plan” was widely panned by newspaper editorial boards across Virginia, for good reason – it was awful!
13. Paul Reagan: Sen. Jim Webb’s Chief of Staff may soon become Gov. McAuliffe’s, from what I’ve heard.
14. Levar Stoney: The former DPVA Executive Director has been T-Mac’s aide for several years now (for a while he was T-Mac’s ONLY aide), and the reward is seeing his boss elected governor (not to mention Levar possibly becoming Secretary of the Commonwealth or something of similar status).
15. Robby Mook: He’s been touted as Hillary Clinton’s possible campaign manager in 2016, and he managed to maintain that status coming out of this election. Mook’s team – Josh Schwerin, Brennan Bilberry, Alex Kellner, the field/GOTV operation, etc. – deserve to be on the “winner’s” list as well.
16. The Clintons: Their friend Terry McAuliffe is now going to be Governor of Virginia, as Hillary gears up to (most likely) run for President in 2016. Now, the key is T-Mac being a successful governor, but the bottom line is that Hillary’s got to be thrilled to have her friend heading up one of the most important states, electorally speaking, as she weighs whether to go for the White House.
17. Rosalind Helderman: The Washington Post reporter broke numerous stories on Star Scientific which were important in their own right, but also had an important impact on the Virginia governor’s race this year. Nice job.
18. Latino turnout: I hear from Del. Alfonso Lopez that 95,000 Latino votes were cast, according to the Latino Decisions exit poll. In contrast, the 2009 Virginia Governor’s election saw just 45,000 Latinos vote. Thus, Latinos made up 3% of the Virginia electorate in 2009 & approximately 5% this time. Impressive! [UPDATE: Add African Americans as well; their turnout was also impressive, similar in percentage terms to 2012 – nice job!]
19. Aneesh Chopra: Unlike many candidates who lose primaries, Chopra didn’t disappear from the scene. Instead, from everything I’ve heard and seen, Chopra was very helpful to the Democratic ticket, reportedly helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from his friends in the tech community, etc. Nice job by Aneesh, who should most definitely have a future in Virginia politics!
20. Great volunteers: This list could be endless, really, just like in the Webb campaign with its “ragtag army” of 12,000 volunteers. For now, I’ll just single out a couple who I know well and who live here in Arlington – Kip Malinosky and Charley Conrad, both of whom apparently never sleep or stop working to elect Democrats – as examples of what I’m talking about. To every Democratic volunteer, thanks for what you do! (Oh yeah, definitely have to mention Jack Powers, a superb photographer who volunteered at many Democratic events this election cycle).
21. House Speaker Bill Howell: Came out of the House of Delegates races looking very good. He’s got to be smiling today, as the results could easily have been a lot worse.
1. Bob McDonnell: A miserable year in general, and his scandals played a significant role in the Republican Party’s destruction last night. On the other hand, there’s no love lost between McDonnell and Cuccinelli (to put it mildly), so there’s got to be a bit of schadenfreude in the Governor’s mansion today at Cuccinelli’s defeat.
2. Dick Saslaw: LG-elect Ralph Northam would break ties in the State Senate, which would make Saslaw Majority Leader again, but ONLY if Democrats hold Northam’s (and possibly Mark Herring’s) Senate seat(s) in special election(s). If not, then Saslaw could go down from 20 Democrats to 18 or 19, and start daydreaming 24/7 about his retirement to Hawaii or wherever.
3. Bob Lewis: The long-time dean of the Virginia political press corps was fired by the AP for a badly botched story, which of course is bad news for Bob Lewis. On the other hand, there was a huge outpouring of support for Lewis, including a Nov. 18 reception with Gov. Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine in Lewis’ honor. Plus, Lewis already got hired – as senior manager, media relations, at McGuire Woods. Not too shabby!
4. Political primaries: I often hear people say that primaries are terrible, divisive, destructive, wasteful of financial resources, etc. I strongly disagree with this mindset, both in terms of seeing ZERO evidence to support that view, and also because I believe primaries are an important opportunity for the party to figure out who it feels best represents its values, and who has the best chance of winning the election. This cycle, Democrats didn’t have one for governor, and Terry McAuliffe won. Meanwhile, we DID have ones for LG and AG, and so far Ralph Northam has won easily and Mark Herring is tied with Mark Obenshain. So what does that tell us? Maybe primaries are neither all good or all bad?
5. Barack Obama: Terry McAuliffe won after Obama came in to campaign for him, but on the other hand anger at “Obamacare” helped rally the Tea Party base, as it did in 2009 and 2010. So…mixed bag there.
6. Chris LaCivita: Cuccinelli’s chief strategist often seemed to have no real strategy, other than attack “Obamacare” and bring in every right wingnut in the country to campaign for Cuccinelli, thus reinforcing the image of Cooch as an extremist. On the other hand, there’s some evidence that this strategy might have been somewhat effective in the closing days in rallying the Tea Party base to turn out in the polls for Cuccinelli. Mixed verdict on this one.
7. Tom Perriello: Could he have won a primary against Terry McAuliffe and gone on to become Gov. Perriello? We’ll never know, but I’m confident that Perriello would have defeated Cuccinelli easily if he had managed to defeat T-Mac for the nomination. On the other hand, Tom’s got a great job at the Center for American Progress, didn’t have to put himself through a hellacious primary and general election, and doesn’t have to feel bad that Ken Cuccinelli was elected governor, because he wasn’t.
1. Tea Party: They won the battle (the Republican convention last spring), but boy-oh-boy did they lose the war – or in this case the Governor’s mansion and the Lt. Governor’s gavel. Nice job, guys!
2. CONSOL Energy: Not only did they waste tens of thousands of dollars supporting Ken Cuccinelli (and Mark Obenshain), their contribution provided ammo to Virginia Democrats in pounding Cuccinelli in SW Virginia. Nice job, CONSOL, please come again!
3. NRA, VDCL: Terry McAuliffe stated point blank that he didn’t give a rat’s hindquarters about the gun lobby’s support, and there’s no evidence that it hurt him in the least bit. The times they are a changin’ in Virginia? Or maybe the fact that huge majorities of Virginians support commonsense gun safety measures like background checks makes dissing the gun nuts both good policy AND good politics? See this article in the New Republic for more.
4. Pat Mullins: The RPV Chair presided over multiple fiascos, including the “coup” by Cuccinelli supporters and the decision to ditch the GOP primary for a convention, then the predictable results of letting a bunch of Tea Party activists select their dream “extreme team.” #FAIL
5. Ted Cruz: The architect of the federal government shutdown not only plummeted in the polls nationally, he also hurt Ken Cuccinelli’s political prospects by appearing with him at an event just as anger at the government shutdown was near its peak. Nice job, Ted, I probably should make you a “winner” for that – from a Democratic perspective, that is!
6. Mudcat Saunders: I’m sorry, but any “Democrat” endorsing Ken Cuccinelli for Governor of Virginia is no better than “Benedict” Lambert endorsing George Allen over Jim Webb in 2006. I just wish Mudcat held an office so we could primary him and drive him out of it! LOL
7. Tichi Pinkney-Eppes: Another supposed “Democrat” who endorsed Ken Cuccinelli for Governor. She needs to be defeated at the next possible opportunity.
8. Republican Governor’s Association: Poured millions of dollars into Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign. Lost. Oh well, easy come/easy go.
9. Justin Fairfax: Came out of nowhere, barely losing the Democratic primary back in June to Mark Herring, then essentially disappeared (before reappearing in the last few days of the election in a flurry of tweets and photos). Not exactly the most dedicated Virginia Democrat, to put it mildly, and definitely not one any of us should support in the future. [UPDATE: I’ve heard from a few people that Justin Fairfax did some work for the Democratic ticket, which is good if true. I certainly wasn’t aware of it, that’s for sure.]
10. PolitiFact Virginia: Just when you think that the organization I call “PolitiFICTION” can’t get any lamer, they do. This election cycle was just pathetic, with clear calls either “false” or “true” apparently beyond their intellectual capabilities. I mean, why even have something called “PolitiFact” if they’re utterly incapable of figuring out what’s fact and what’s fiction? Got me.
11. Anyone who claimed Terry McAuliffe was “unelectable” or that Ken Cuccinelli was a “great politician”. It turns out that, although McAuliffe certainly has his “issues,” he wasn’t unelectable. And Cuccinelli showed himself to not be the “great politician” he was cracked up to be. I also should probably take this opportunity to remind everyone of Waldo Jaquith’s semi-prophetic article last December, Neither Cuccinelli nor McAuliffe can win. And yet one of them must. And yes, one of them just did! LOL
12. Legacy media coverage of the down-ballot races: With the possible exception of the E.W. Jackson freak show (the media just LOOOOVES a freak show!), basically I’d ask, “WHAT legacy media coverage of the down-ballot races?” It’s truly pathetic.
13. Legacy media coverage of the governor’s race: With a few exceptions, it was the usual drivel – lots of horse race coverage, repeating the conventional wisdom, “both sides” false equivalency, fluffy “personality” pieces, blech.
14. Virginia Democratic House of Delegates polling. From what I hear, it was all messed up, leading to mistakes in terms of candidate focus, funding, etc. I’m really not sure why Virginia Democrats don’t do what Virginia Republicans apparently do and hire the best pollsters. Also, having more than one pollster might not be a bad idea. Just a thought.
15. Political conventions: To paraphrase Ken Cuccinelli paraphrasing Dr. Phil, so how’d that coup leading to a GOP convention work out for ya? Heh.
16. People who think their vote doesn’t matter and sit home on Election Day. I can’t tell you how little respect I have for people who don’t vote, and particularly for those who complain about how things are going but don’t vote. Also, they’re just flat-out wrong that their vote doesn’t make a difference. Cases in point: the 2005 recount for Attorney General between Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell and the 2013 recount for Attorney General between Mark Obenshain and Mark Herring. Any further questions?
17. Political polling: It was utterly pathetic in this cycle. See here for more.
18. Comedians: They won’t have Ken Cuccinelli as Governor and/or E.W. Jackson as Lt. Governor to mine for comedy gold. I’m sure they’ll find other material, but still…that’s a big loss! LOL
19. The House Democratic Caucus: Heading into Election Day, I had heard that up to 14 seats were potentially competitive, with certainly the possibility of picking up 5 or 6 net seats. In the end, it appears from VPAP that Democrats gained just ONE net House seat (including Michael Futrell, a candidate Dems had basically written off and who didn’t campaign for weeks on end). Not good. One top Democratic Virginia politico told me, “I think the House Caucus [screwed] up by ceding their field operations to Coordinated. They didn’t have their own universes, they adopted Terry’s thinking they’d ride his coattails. Well, you know what, some of these HOD candidates probably needed to talk to a slightly larger universe.” In contrast, Republicans appear to protect their incumbents and promote their newcomers quite effectively. The contrast is glaring.
20. Democracy for America: Last May, the promised “a robust, layered campaign, highly data driven, microtargeted, $750,000 in just these 5 districts on targeted mail, media, etc.” In the end, they spent around $127,000 in Virginia this cycle, about one-sixth what they had promised. Not sure about the other stuff, but whatever they did, it sure didn’t work!